- London Letter: July, 1921
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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362 ] London Letter: July, 19211 The Dial, 71 (Aug 1921) 213-17 The vacant term of wit set in early this year with a fine hot rainless spring; the crop of murders and divorces has been poor compared with that of last autumn; Justice Darling (comic magistrate) has been silent, and has only raised his voice to declare that he does not know the difference between Epstein and Einstein (laughter).2 Einstein the Great has visited England, and delivered lectures to uncomprehending audiences, and been photographed for the newspapers smiling at Lord Haldane. We wonder how much that smile implies; but Einstein has not confided its meaning to the press. He has met Mr. Bernard Shaw, but made no public comment on that subject.3 Einstein has taken his place in the newspapers with the comet, the sun-spots, the poisonous jellyfish and octopus at Margate, and other natural phenomena.4 Mr. Robert Lynd has announced that only two living men have given their names to a school of poetry: King George V and Mr. J. C. Squire.5 A new form of influenza has been discovered, which leaves extreme dryness and a bitter taste in the mouth.6 The fine weather and the coal strike have turned a blazing glare on London, discovering for the first time towers and steeples of an uncontaminated white.7 The smile is without gaiety. What is spring without the Opera? Drury Lane and Covent Garden mourn; the singers have flocked, we are told, to New York, where such luxuries can be maintained. They have forgotten thee, O Sion.8 Opera was one of the last reminders of a former excellence of life, a sustaining symbol even for those who seldom went. England sits in her weeds: eleven theatres are on the point of closing, as the public will no longer pay the prices required by the cost.9 Considering the present state of the stage, there is little direct cause for regret. An optimist might even affirm that when everything that is bad and expensive is removed, its place may be supplied by something good and cheap; on the other hand it is more likely to be supplied by what is called, in the language of the day, the “super-cinema.”10 Yet the Everyman Theatre at Hampstead, formed on a similar ideal to that of the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris, has, I hear, done well with a season of Shaw plays, though the performance has been criticized.11 And M. Diaghileff, who has lately arrived with [ 363 London Letter: July his Ballet and with Stravinsky, has crowded houses. Massine is not there, but Lopokova in perfection. Not yet having had the opportunity of going, I can say nothing about either of the new ballets, Chout or Cuadro Flamenco.12 Two years ago M. Diaghileff ’s ballet arrived, the first Russian dancers since the war: we greeted the Good-humoured Ladies, and the Boutique Fantasque, and the Three-Cornered Hat, as the dawn of an art of the theatre.13 And although there has been nothing since that could be called a further development, the ballet will probably be one of the influences forming a new drama, if a new drama ever comes. I mean of course the later ballet which has just been mentioned; for the earlier ballet, if it had greater dancers – Nijinsky or Pavlowa – had far less significance or substantiality.14 The later ballet is more sophisticated, but also more simplified , and simplifies more; and what is needed of art is a simplification of current life into something rich and strange.15 This simplification neither Congreve nor Mr. Shaw attained; and however brilliant their comedies, they are a divagation from art.16 In this connection, it may be observed that Mr. Gordon Craig has incurredabusebyanessaywhichfillstheFebruarynumberoftheChapbook, entitled “Puppets and Poets.”17 Mr. Craig’s style of writing, from what one can judge of it in this essay or series of notes, is certainly deplorable; but his essay contains a great deal of interest and some sense. He was rebuked for pointing out that the Puppet is not intended to deceive us into thinking thatitishuman,andafterwardspraisingoneoftheJapanesefiguresillustrated by saying that “this . . . hand almost seems prepared to shake another hand.”18 Why,saysthecritic,thisisacontradiction:isthepuppetintendedtoresemble a human being or not? If it is, then it is merely a substitute for a human being, only tolerable on account of the high price of actors; if it is not, why should theproximityoftheresemblancebeamerit?ButMr...